Hormones play a major role in the body by acting as messengers. When there is a disruption in their functioning, doctors speak of hormonal disorders. Indispensable to the proper functioning of the body, we must pay attention to them if we want to avoid serious health problems.
Hormonal imbalance occurs when one or the other hormone is produced in too much or in too little quantity by the corresponding glands.
A hormonal imbalance can occur in all of us, men and women. Overweight, fluid retention, mood disorders, fatigue, difficult digestion (…) are symptoms that can result from a hormonal imbalance.
Hormonal imbalance is a huge topic because it can involve a whole range of very different hormones. Hormones normally secreted by glands in our body are very numerous and have various effects on the functioning of organs. Hormones are normally secreted by so-called endocrine glands and are released into the bloodstream, to act on one or more target organs or tissues.
For example, the ovaries release various hormones including estrogens which act in the menstruation cycle of women, but also on the skin, libido, mucous membranes, brain cells. As such a hormonal imbalance, and in particular, estrogen, has many repercussions on female cycles, the quality of the skin, libido, etc.
A hormonal imbalance of the thyroid, parathyroid glands, ovaries, testes, pancreas, pituitary gland, adrenal will have their own specific repercussions:
For example, a drop in thyroid hormones will cause constipation, fatigue, and depression. While an excess of cortisol (called Cushing’s syndrome) will cause hirsutism, acne, and high blood pressure.
A hormonal imbalance can occur at any age, from childhood, but also in adulthood, and in old age. From birth, specific blood tests make it possible to detect possible congenital hypothyroidism and adrenal hyperplasia.
During life, the secretion of hormones varies, so in women, at menopause, the secretions of estrogen and progesterone decrease sharply. If this causes some inconvenience, we can not really speak of hormonal imbalance, since all this is perfectly normal, physiologically speaking.
Symptoms of hormonal imbalance
A hormonal imbalance can cause all kinds of symptoms. However, sometimes this imbalance may not cause any problem whatsoever. This is the case, for example, with diabetes which, at an early stage, does not give rise to any particular clinical manifestation. Other times, the symptoms are quite apparent. But these manifestations are not necessarily typical, specific to a hormonal imbalance. And the diagnosis can be difficult.
Thus, fatigue, the feeling of being cold, a heart that beats slowly, irregular heartbeats… can be the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Hot flashes can be a sign of low estrogen in women, etc.
Signs affecting the skin can be symptoms of a hormonal imbalance: such as loss of eyebrow in case of hypothyroidism, or particular pigmentation of the skin, in case of insufficient functioning of the adrenal glands.
Too much hair (hirsutism) and acne can be symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome or polycystic ovary syndrome.
Thus, the symptoms of hormonal imbalance are diverse and different depending on the hormone in question. The different combinations of symptoms can enlighten a healthcare professional about a probable hormonal imbalance. Here are some of the more common symptoms, but there can be many more:
- Loss of libido
- Hair loss or increase
- Dry skin
- Very fine hair
- Brittle or ridged nails
- Constipation and other digestive problems
- Sleep disorders: difficulty falling asleep, insomnia, or on the contrary inability to go to bed late.
- Mood disorders
- Vaginal dryness
- Erectile dysfunction
- Frequent feeling of cold
- Slow beating heart
- Excessive sweating
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Pockets under the eyes
- Memory loss
- Coordination disorders
People most affected by hormonal imbalance
Hormonal imbalance can occur at any time of life, regardless of the age and sex of the person concerned. However, some people are more likely to suffer from a hormonal imbalance:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Women in premenopause and menopause.
- Old people
Treatment of hormonal imbalance
Once the diagnosis has been established, and the cause of the hormonal imbalance has been defined, treatments for the latter can be implemented.
Treatments for hormonal imbalances may be based on medication. In the event of hypothyroidism, treatment with thyroid hormones will be prescribed. If diabetes is diagnosed, treatment consists of applying dietary rules often associated with taking medication (sometimes with injections of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar).
In case of hormonal imbalance affecting the sex glands, such as the ovaries, estrogen-based contraception or hormone replacement therapy may be necessary (in case of early menopause, or if menopause is responsible for hot flashes, for example).
Other times, if a tumor is causing an exaggerated secretion of hormones, surgery on the tumor may be necessary.
Prevention of hormonal imbalance
There is no known way to effectively prevent the onset of hormonal imbalance. However, experts encourage everyone to do the following:
- Eat a balanced diet
- exercise regularly
- Manage stress
- Avoid abuse of all kinds
- Eliminate smoking